Sri Lankan Airlines Aims To Expand India Operations

Focusing on India as a special market, Sri Lankan Airlines is ready to start its services to three new destinations, besides launching additional frequencies and improving connectivity in the country.

“We are adding Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and Coimbatore by July when we take the delivery of the new Airbus fleet A320 Neo and A321 Neo. The flight frequency to the existing 12 cities will also be increased to 128 in a week from the present 107. We will also increase the existing frequencies to Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi,” says Siva Ramachandran, Chief Commercial Officer, Sri Lankan Airlines.

India is specifically an important market and the company is strategically expanding its reach in the region. The overall load factor on some Indian routes is still running close to 80 per cent while some witnessed more than that.

“We are also looking at adding Ahmedabad as a new destination by 2018-19, considering the industry growth and frequency of travel from the region,” he told BusinessLine in an interaction.

The airline company, according to him, intends to reduce its dependence on the Gulf sector on account of dwindling revenues and would like to focus more on Far East, South Asia and South East Asian destinations. “What is critical for the business today is cutting low yields and looking for high-yield passengers both tourists as well as business traffic”, he said.

Tourism boom

To leverage Sri Lanka’s tourism boom, Ramachandran said plans are on the anvil to launch packages for holiday travel linking Colombo, Maldives and Seychelles and other Far East destinations. The company is also looking at associating with Kerala-based destination marketing companies for the promotion of backwater tourism. Sri Lankan Airlines is presently operating 21 flights a week to the God’s Own Country.

Currently the annual growth rate in leisure travel from India to the island destination is 15-20 per cent, especially from Delhi and Chennai.

The tourist traffic from Kochi also witnessed a marginal increase last year.

On the company’s financial performance, the Chief Commercial Officer said, “We fell short of revenue due to various reasons like currency fluctuations and market slump in certain regions, but managed to reduce the budgeted loss”.

Higher revenues

The targeted revenue for the current financial year is $800 million, against $700 million a year ago. Last year, the airline carried 4.5 million passengers, the highest ever in its history. The passenger traffic this year is expected to touch 4.9 million, he added.

On the freight front, he said 12 per cent of the airline’s revenue comes from cargo movement. Sri Lankan Cargo has been expanding its services rapidly using Colombo as a “hub in the ocean” to link the fast growing economies of South Asia with Europe, South East Asia and the Far East.

Chennai is its biggest cargo hub in India, followed by Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. The company also operates a freight service to some Indian destinations.